James McNamara reviews 'How Not To Be A Boy' by Robert Webb and 'This Is Going To Hurt: Secret diaries of a junior doctor' by Adam Kay

James McNamara reviews 'How Not To Be A Boy' by Robert Webb and 'This Is Going To Hurt: Secret diaries of a junior doctor' by Adam Kay

How Not To Be A Boy

by Robert Webb

Canongate, $29.99 pb, 336 pp, 9781786890092

Book Cover 2 Small

This Is Going To Hurt: Secret diaries of a junior doctor

by Adam Kay

Picador, $29.99 pb, 256 pp, 9781509858651

The literary world too often disdains comedy writing as unserious. It rarely features in our grander prizes, and is usually relegated to literature’s cheap seats. This is, of course, silly. Great comedy can make as many grave points about humanity as realist fiction. You just get to laugh along the way.

Two crackling literary memoirs by comedians show this seriousness of purpose. Robert Webb is best known for co-starring in the Mitchell and Webb sketch shows and the sitcom Peep Show. Given that pedigree, he could have written a memoir about professional glory and pissed banter with David Mitchell. But How Not To Be a Boy is more courageous, offering a Bildungsroman that examines the effect of his mother’s death on his early life, and the culture of toxic masculinity that muffled his grief and stifled his emotional growth (basically, everything you’d get in po-faced literary fiction – plus jokes).

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Published in December 2017, no. 397

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